A few months ago, I was part of a discussion about the current generation of entrepreneurs says, William D King. As someone who has spent the last two years working with very early-stage founders one-on-one, I have some thoughts that are worth sharing on this topic – specifically on what’s wrong with them and how we might fix it.
It’s easier than ever before to start a business, with the cost of getting started now practically free. As I’ve said previously, that’s great news for all entrepreneurs – just not early-stage ones. Instead of spending $50k-$100k and four months building their MVPs, they throw together something in an afternoon using Tumblr or Wix says, William D King. They show their friends and get a positive response, lose motivation in two weeks when they can’t figure out how to add a second field to their sign-up form, and never take the time to test with real users – even though it only takes half an hour, max.
The result is that we’re all inundated with crappy products and frustrated, confused users. (It’s like the tech world went back to 1999 but without all the excitement)
We need to give early-stage founders what they lack – an understanding of product basics. They can’t just build something quickly; they also need to build something that works well, is easy to use, and solves a problem for their user – that’s why we call it product/market fit. (For more on the importance of this, see my post on Sean Ellis.)
It’ll help if they go back to school seriously. There are few business schools that focus specifically on startups; there needs to be many more of them. Startups are a different beast than established companies, and we need to give future entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Instead of spending $200-$300k and two years building their MBA s at traditional business schools, founders should spend $20k on an online course or $10k on a crash course weekend program.
Early-stage founders will build better products and fewer of them. That means users won’t be as annoyed, frustrated, or confused – the end result is that they’ll stick around longer. We want our startups to create value for their users; if it’s not easy for new customers to get up and running quickly, then our entrepreneurs are doing something wrong.
The result is that we’ll build better companies, stronger teams, and happier customers – who means we’ll create more value than ever for society as a whole and everyone, will be happy!
Here are some FAQs recently asked of me:
Q: “I want to start a company now, but my product idea is relatively simple and I don’t have experience as a developer. What do you recommend?”
A: Please don’t go out and try to build something on your own. Try talking to users first and testing your hypotheses. If that’s not possible then go to an accelerator like YCombinator or TechStars. By the time you go through one of these programs, it will seem easy in comparison (trust me).
Q: “What’s wrong with bootstrapping?”
A: R u kidding? We know how well that went for Steve and Bill when they started out. Have some perspective, man.
Q: “What’s wrong with getting an MBA?”
A: Nothing – when you’re in your 30s or 40s, want to switch careers, or are close to retirement. When you’re in your early 20s and only two years removed from college, it will probably take much longer than working at a startup to learn what you need to know explains William D King.
Q: “I read your article about how it’s easier than ever to start a company, but I can’t code. What do you recommend?”
A: If you’re the only designer/marketer/salesperson on your team then find someone who can build things. There are tons of people who would take a chance on an early-stage company – look at all the successful companies founded by nontechnical cofounders. If you can’t afford to pay them anything, then offer equity instead. Startups are hard enough as it is without trying to do everything yourself, so please don’t go out there and try to build something from scratch unless you really have to.
Q: “Why are there so many crappy products out there?”
A: Most of the time it’s because early-stage founders are building something they think is cool when in reality it’s just not that interesting to anyone else. They don’t know how to talk to users, test their assumptions, or validate their ideas. They think they can just keep iterating until something sticks, but that’s not how it works.
William D King says as humans, we long to understand the world around us and what’s possible – but unless we focus on giving future entrepreneurs the tools they need, we won’t solve the problems of today. So let’s give them the education and experience they need to build better products – and instead of throwing away all your code and starting from scratch, let’s use what we’ve built to make it even better!